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Pollution data released after outcry over smog

South China Morning Post – 13 Jan 2012

Authorities in smog-plagued Beijing yesterday began releasing hourly readings of three major air pollutants, in an apparent bid to appease residents angry about the government’s prolonged secrecy over the city’s deteriorating air quality.

The move coincided with a pledge by Mayor Guo Jinlong to tackle smog-causing pollutants, notably PM2.5 – hazardous fine respirable particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns – and ozone.

Guo also promised to publish hourly PM2.5 data this year, after a national outcry sparked by persistent smog in major cities since October.

However, environmentalists pointed out that health-threatening pollutants PM2.5 and ozone were still absent from the pollution disclosure.

Pollution readings of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and PM10 – large particles less than 10 microns in diameter – are now on a local government-sponsored website of the Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre. Before yesterday, only daily pollution readings were published.

It comes just a day after local authorities banned media coverage of PM2.5, after apparently being embarrassed by pollution at the start of a government conference. Smog hit Beijing on Tuesday morning, coinciding with the opening of this year’s session of the Municipal People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Pan Shiyi , a property tycoon and congress representative, was confused by the media ban, which came as PM2.5 apparently became the focal point at the meeting.

“Air quality concerns everyone, and that’s exactly what congress representatives should discuss,” he said.

He said releasing PM2.5 data was the start of the process of educating the public about the reality of pollution levels. “Everyone can help tackle the problem after we know how serious the pollution has become.”

Severe air pollution has hit major mainland cities since October.

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